Having qualified as a mature student while handling three businesses and cancer, it’s small wonder Christine Convy CA has built Dunedin Advisory into an advisory and insolvency powerhouse
WORDS: FRASER ALLEN
When Christine Convy CA began her first part-time job, aged just 13, the experience sparked an enduring interest in the world of commerce that would one day see her run three businesses simultaneously. Today, those ventures are consolidated into one – Dunedin Advisory, an independent practice specialising in business development, restructuring and recovery, and helping individuals with personal debt.
Dunedin’s story began with a full-time role Convy took on after leaving college, working as a PA for what was then Price Waterhouse in Edinburgh. There she decided she wanted to become a CA, but lacking an accountancy degree, worked on receiverships and liquidations in the firm’s insolvency arm. That led to foundation courses in law, accountancy and tax at Napier University, before she became one of the first candidates in Scotland to gain the Joint Insolvency Examination qualification.
Moving to an accountancy firm in Kirkcaldy, Convy developed its insolvency work, while hoovering up knowledge about accounting and audit. She made Partner at the age of 27, and the company was later renamed Convyclark, before being sold to RSM Tenon in 2005.
After three years with the group, Convy decided to take an entrepreneurial leap by starting not one new business, but three – she, together with two different colleagues, set up an accountancy practice (Eden Fyfe), and two insolvency specialists (Dunedin and Insolvency Support Services).
Meanwhile, Convy began to study for her ICAS exams as a mature student. But, halfway through her studies, she was diagnosed with cancer and had to take a months-long break. Once recovered, she was burning the midnight oil once more.
“It was difficult juggling so many commitments,” says Convy. “I used to drink Red Bull at 1am to stay awake and finish the course prep for the next day! The CA qualification is of huge value and you can apply the lessons learned across so many elements of business, particularly in advising businesses on restructuring, growth and best practice.”
Convy originally set up Insolvency Support Services (ISS) to provide services to other specialist practitioners. In 2013, however, the business won the insolvency services contract for the Scottish government agency Accountant in Bankruptcy (AiB), later prompting her to focus primarily on working for government bodies, courts and SMEs. Convy also offloaded Eden Fyfe in a management buy-out, and merged Dunedin into ISS, later swapping the name back to Dunedin.
The company now employs 14 staff, one trustee and seven specialist contractors across Dundee, Fife and Glasgow. And in 2020, Convy converted the business into an employee ownership trust (EOT). “A key element within the EOT is employee empowerment,” she says. “That means creating the correct platform for employees to take the business forward as future beneficiaries with a mechanism to earn bonuses and share options along the way.”
LEADING THE AiB FAMEWORK
Dunedin continues to lead the AiB framework, taking top spot in the July 2022 tender, and is developing the firm’s expertise through its Dunedin Academy initiative. “It’s an ongoing training programme for all our staff and major stakeholders,” says Convy. “It’s a comprehensive approach to upskilling us in every area, with external experts coming in to discuss issues such as customer vulnerability. It’s hugely satisfying when we see positive results from this.”
Convy is also keen to dispel misconceptions about insolvency work. “Many people are under the illusion that insolvency practitioners only deal with graveyard cases,” she says. “A lot of our work is providing proactive advice on preventative measures and ideas for business strategy and growth, particularly in positive restructures, business finance and succession. With directors becoming more vulnerable and open to challenges on their decision making, consulting with us at an early stage, and having it documented as part of a strategic plan in demonstrating the commercial purpose of actions and intentions, can be invaluable, particularly when faced with unforeseen challenges at a later date.”
Dunedin is also authorised by the FCA to offer debt advice and can act as a continuing money adviser under the Debt Arrangement Scheme for personal and business debt (sole traders and partnerships). The scheme may be in demand as recession bites, but Convy believes her team know how to maintain a personal service while dealing with high cases volumes. With her long experience of juggling roles, she’s well placed to know.
Article reproduced with permission